Sunday, April 21, 2013

Recipe: Lemon Cheesecake with a Raspberry Swirl

So, making a cheesecake was my way of dealing with the fact that I had a box of Girl Scout Trefoil cookies, which were pretty tasteless (at least in comparison to Walkers brand shortbread, which is far superior), that I refused to waste. The easiest way to use them, in my mind, was to make a crust with them, and I felt that cheesecake was the ideal filling for said crust (plus, I've never made cheesecake before, and I wanted to try something new). While out to dinner with a friend, I mentioned my plan for this cheesecake and we started brainstorming ideas for flavors for the dessert (because New York Style with gooey strawberry puree on top was not gonna cut it). We both mentioned lemon and raspberry in almost the same breath, and I was immediately hooked on the idea, so I found this great recipe from The Girl in the Little Red Kitchen to work off of. Even though Pennsylvania still can't seem to decide if it wants winter or spring (and thus, we go from 70 degrees one day to 40 degrees the next), I felt the flavors of lemon and raspberry were bright and perfect for this transitional stage between the end of winter and beginning of spring. Lemon and cream cheese, each with their own tangy flavor, go perfectly together, while sweetened raspberries add another dimension to the flavor and help sweeten the cheesecake. Aside from the exceptional flavor, this cheesecake is thick, creamy, and decadent—so rich that even I, champion of eating ALL the dessert, only cut myself the slimmest slice so as to avoid overdoing it.

Yields: About 16 servings (depending on how large your slices are)
Prep. time: 20-30 minutes
Cooking time: 10 min. for the crust, approx. 1-and-a-half hours for the cheesecake
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Special equipment: Springform pan, food processor, stand mixer, strainer

For the crust
  • 1&1/2 sleeves Girl Scout Trefoil cookies (or approx. 1 box of your favorite shortbread cookies/approx. 20 cookies)
  • 2 tbsp. granulated white sugar
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
For the raspberry puree swirl
  • 10-12 oz. fresh or frozen raspberries
  • 1/4 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
For the cheesecake filling
  • 4, 8 oz. blocks/packages of cream cheese (I used Philadelphia 1/3 Less Fat), room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated white sugar
  • Zest of 3 lemons (approx. 2 tbsp.)
  • 1 cup sour cream (I used a low fat style), room temperature
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature (you can bring them up to room temperature faster by placing them, still in the shells, in a cup or bowl with warm-to-hot water)
  • Juice of 3 lemons (approx. 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • Additional 1-2 tbsp. sugar (to help cut some of the acidity of the lemons)

For the crust
Preheat the oven to 350*F. In a food processor, pulse the cookies until they are broken down into a fine crumb, then add the sugar and melted butter and pulse to blend until the cookie mixture is wet and looks a bit like damp sand. Spray or butter your springform pan, then pour the cookie mixture into the pan and press evenly on the bottom and up onto the sides. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Set aside to cool.

For the raspberry puree swirl
Add the raspberries, sugar, and water to a small saucepan and heat over medium high heat for approx. 10 minutes, until the raspberries are completely broken down and the mixture is bubbling. Remove from heat and pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a small bowl or measuring cup (the strainer removes all of the unwanted lumps and seeds and gives you a nice, clear puree). If the puree is a little watery, boil for about a minute to slightly thicken in. Set aside to cool (I placed mine in the fridge to cool faster).

For the cheesecake filling
Lower the temperature of the oven to 325*F. Wrap the bottom and outside sides of the springform pan in aluminum foil, so no water will leak inside while cooking (the cheesecake will be cooked in a water bath). In the bowl of your stand mixer, on medium speed, cream together the cream cheese, sugar, and lemon zest until the mixture is smooth and airy (approx. 3-5 minutes). Add the sour cream and mix it in, then add the eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each one before adding the next. Add the lemon juice, salt, and extra sugar to the mixture and blend, scraping down the sides of the bowl, until the mixture is well mixed. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan with crust and smooth the top of the batter with a spatula so it is even and smooth. Carefully drizzle part of the raspberry puree in a large circle around the edge of the batter, then another slightly smaller circle in the middle, and a smaller circle inside of that (3-4 rings of raspberry puree should be fine; you should have puree leftover). Take a skewer, chopstick, or other long and thin kitchen utensil/tool and make a zigzag motion across the batter from top to bottom, then side to side, creating a swirl pattern. Place the springform pan in a larger pan (make sure it's not too tight of a fit). Boil a pot of water and pour the boiling water carefully into the larger pan (do not splash any water into or onto the cheesecake) so that the water comes up about halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake for about an hour and 30 minutes, until the cheesecake no longer jiggles much in the middle (a little jiggling is fine, as the cheesecake will continue to cook a little even after being removed from the oven, and it will firm up after removal from the oven). Remove the cheesecake and let it cool in the pan for at least 2 hours, then remove the pan (leaving the bottom) and allow the cheesecake to cool for at least 5-6 hours in the fridge. Save the remaining raspberry puree in an airtight container in the fridge.
Serve the cheesecake with an extra drizzle of raspberry puree, if desired, and if you're feeling a little adventurous (as I was), add a dollop of homemade whipped cream (1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, 2 tbsp, sugar, and 2 tbsp. of the raspberry puree whips up to create a lovely raspberry whipped cream). Keep the cheesecake and puree in the fridge to keep them fresh. 

The cheesecake, fresh out of the oven. My puree was a little thin, which caused it to pool a bit when I drizzled it on and swirled it, but I still think it looks pretty good!

This cheesecake is phenomenal, with flavors that are perfect for the spring and summer months. Bright, tangy lemon tempered by the sweetness of the raspberries and creaminess of the cheesecake batter itself makes for a delicious cheesecake. It's both light and incredibly rich, with a smooth, thick creaminess that's oh-so-decadent. I think other flavorings could easily be subbed in for the lemon and raspberry, so this is definitely a recipe you can play around with, but this raspberry and lemon combo is pretty hard to beat.

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